#175: The Case of the
Original Airdate: 03/21/63
From The Perry Mason TV Show Book
This episode is based on Erle Stanley Gardner’s first Perry Mason book. A photographer snaps a picture of prominent politician Harrison Burke and a married woman, Eva Belter, as they leave a local gambling establishment. Harrison is concerned for his career but Eva is afraid of what her husband, George Belter, will do. She goes to Perry for help, telling him that her name is Griffin and that a scandal sheet called Spicy Bits is blackmailing her.
Perry has a personal interest in seeing the publication closed down because a friend of his committed suicide over a piece that appeared in it.
That night, Perry gets a call from Eva telling him that Belter has been shot. She also intimates that she heard Perry and Belter arguing earlier in the evening.
Perry could become the prime murder suspect in this case.
Starring Raymond Burr
in Erle Stanley Gardner’s
The Case of THE VELVET CLAWS
Barbara Hale, William Hopper, Ray Collins
Directed by Harmon Jones
Teleplay by Jackson Gillis
Arthur Marks | Producer
Gail Patrick Jackson | Executive Producer
Jackson Gillis | Associate Producer
Samuel Newman | Story Consultant
Raymond Burr as Perry Mason
Barbara Hale as Della Street
William Hopper as Paul Drake
Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg
Wesley Lau as Lt. Anderson
Patricia Barry as Eva Belter
James Philbrook as Harrison Burke
Wynn Pearce as Carl Griffin
Virginia Gregg as Mrs. Vickers
Anna-Lisa as Norma Vickers
Richard Webb as George Belter
Harry Jackson as Frank Locket
Peter Leeds as Photographer
Paul Barselow as Expert
Cathie Merchant as Esther Linten
Ron Stokes as Deputy
Don Lynch as Traffic Officer
Kathy Willow as Switchboard Girl
Buddy Ochoa as Bellboy
Director of Photography … Robert G. Hager
Art Direction … Lewis Creber
Assistant Director … Gordon A. Webb
Film Editor … John D. Faure
Casting … Harvey Clermont
Makeup … Irving Pringle
Hair Stylist … Annabell
Wardrobe Supervision … Ed McDermott, Evelyn Carruth
Set Decoration … Sandy Grace
Properties … Ray Thompson
Production Sound Mixer … Herman Lewis
Script Supervision … Cosmo Genovese
Theme Composed by … Fred Steiner
Automobiles Supplied by … Ford Motor Company
Produced by the CBS Television Network in association with Paisano Productions
TCOT Velvet Claws was published in 1933, the first Perry Mason book. If you haven't read it, you can find it available for purchase online. If you are financially challenged, you may find that you can read it online or borrow it from a library. This seems a good time to recommend that all PM fans should read as many of the books as they can. I think you will appreciate the PM television series more if you read the books. Remember, ESG not only wrote the books, but he was involved with the TV series from start to finish...MikeM. 12/1/2016
Hear, Hear! It is truly interesting to read the Mason books and to note how they were adapted, with varying degrees of success, to TV. The books contain more detail and more of Mason's ingenious tricks and traps for his opponents. Another factor is that in the books Mason rarely or never browbeats a witness into a confession while the Judge and the DA look on passively. Gardner himself accounted for the difference between TV and print in one of his late books about Donald Lam (a disbarred lawyer turned detective) by having Lam tell a policeman who asked how he turned up the murderer in a certain case: "It had to be so-and-so because, after all I only had 52 minutes plus commercials to solve it!". The cop tells Lam to get out of his sight.
Goof: About 16:30 into the episode after a heated argument between Perry and George Belter they head down a flight of stairs. It seems apparent that the actor, Richard Webb, stumbles on the stairs and pitches forward until Raymond Burr catches him. There is a moment when the actors look at one another …then back in character as Belter, Webb mutters “Get your hand off my arm.” Classic. Submitted by Eric Cooper, 21 May 2009.
+ That "stumble" was written into the script to enable other characters to respond to a ruckus in the hallway, and for Perry to recognize one of them. Submitted by francis, 6/9/12.
++ Agreed, no goof. The stumble does give the other characters the cue to enter the scene. But the stumble also follows plausibly from the dialogue: Perry has just started mentioning details, including a name, from one of Belter's other blackmail schemes and Belter realizes how dangerous Perry really is. Great directing and staging, and great physical acting. Bravo! OldDave, filed 5/19/20
What happened to the bruise on Eva's back? When she removed Carl's raincoat, her back was exposed yet the bruise had magically disappeared. Otto Gervaert, 1/14/21
TCOT Curious Coffee Set: The Curious Coffee Set makes a fleeting appearance. Norma Vickers wants to serve the officers coffee in the Curious Coffee Set because they are prettier than the kitchen cups, but Mrs. Vickers scolds her, saying, “Policemen are not guests.” The set stays in the cabinet. Submitted by g, 1/31/2011.
+ I'm starting to see that coffee set everywhere; J. Pat O'malley drinks from it in the Fugitive (Crack in a Crystal Ball) and several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including The Deadly and one where Ray Collins is served poison in it!!! (Conversation over a Corpse). Submitted by WJones 3/21/16.
++ It also appears in an episode of “Andy Griffith” in which Barney tries to catch a shoplifter played by PM regular Laurence Tuttle. DOD 01/14/21
+++ Holy moley! We've found the mother lode! There are, by my rough count, 24 cups, 24 saucers, eighteen 6" bread and butter plates, twelve 7" luncheon plates, four 8" dinner plates, and one 10" service plate or charger in that cupboard!!! WOW. Submitted, with awe and wonder, by catyron, May 9, 2018
Character Names: The “expert” in the credits should have been listed as “Handwriting Expert,” and Perry addresses him as Joe. Submitted by g, 1/31/2011.
Once again, Lt. Tragg appears only in the credits. Submitted by g, 1/31/2011.
"The name 'Perry Mason' dates to creator Gardner's childhood...[He] was a reader of the magazine Youth's Companion...best known for publishing the original Pledge of Allegiance in 1891...[It] was published in Boston by the Perry Mason Company (later renamed Perry Mason & Co. after the founder died)," en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perry_Mason notes. Mike Bedard 2.11.15.
The Case of The Velvet Claws was the very first Perry Mason novel ever penned by Erle Stanley Gardner. Submitted by PaulDrake33, 8 June 2011.
+ It was made into a movie in 1936. It starred Warren Williams as Perry. It was the 4th and final Perry Mason movie before the modern age. Submitted by PaulDrake33, 9 June 2011.
++ It was not the final Perry Mason movie in the 1930's. it was followed by The Case of the Black Cat (1936) and The Case of the Stuttering Bishop (1937). This episode aired in March, 1963, 30 years after the novel was published (March, 1933). Submitted by Bill-W2XOY on 08/15/2013.
+++ Perhaps PaulDrake33 meant it was the final movie starring the original Perry Mason, Warren Williams. The final two movies featured different actors. Submitted by Wiseguy70005, 8/20/13.
++++ All of the movies are available on DVD. Added by H. Mason 10/18/14
Turner Classic Movies has been showing the Perry Mason movies from Warner Brothers (March 2019). The Spicy Bits editor is played by Addison Richards, who appeared twice in the tv show - in two of my favorite episodes, The Angry Mourner and The Traveling Treasure. JohnK, 23 March 2019
Early on, the Photographer holds up his snapshot against a framed cover of Spicy Bits magazine. It features a conservatively but stylishly dressed woman, and standing behind her is a man carrying books in front of his face. This same cover was used in #108, Envious Editor, but as the cover of a professional woman’s magazine. Submitted by gracenote, 7/26/2011.
+ And next to the door is the same photo of a provocatively-posed leggy lovely that was in the bar in #160, Unsuitable Uncle (that image is burned into my memory). Submitted by 65tosspowertrap, 11/15/2013.
When Mr. Locket is paged in the hotel lobby, he enters the telephone booth to take the call but then is shown at the house phone just outside of the booth. After his conversation, he somehow has been transported back into the booth, which he is shown exiting. Submitted by francis, 6/9/12.
+ The phones outside the booth are white. The phone Locket uses is black. Also, he sounds like he is in a booth. Submitted by 65tosspowertrap, 11/15/2013.
Harry Jackson makes his 7th, and final, appearance on Perry here playing Frank Locket. This episode was broadcast on 21 March 1963, Harry Jackson's 40th birthday. According to IMDB, Mr. Jackson had only been acting for films and television since 1956, and this was his last appearance of any type. Maybe illness had something to do with his retirement, since he died 10 years later at the young age of 50. Submitted by PaulDrake33. 10 January 2013.
+ According to IMDb, Harry Jackson died in an automobile accident. Otto Gervaert, 1/14/21
++ With that mustache, he looks remarkably like Paul Whiteman. DOD 01/14/21
CARS. Most cars have the new BLACK-PLATE and most convertible tops are up (rain). The only car still showing an old Yellow-Plate belongs to a lawyer.
- (1) light color 1963 Buick Electra 225 Convertible, white top up, black-plate license# OET 743. It's Harrison Burke's car but Eva demands the keys and drives as she & Burke flee the casino. Burke drives the car later (41:30). "OET" could be "QET".
- (2a), (2b) are two LA County Sheriff B&Ws, each a 1963 Ford 4-Door Sedan (300 or Galaxie). The cruiser blocking Eva & Burke as they flee the casino is fitted with "Exempt" Black-Plate number "octagon-E 014". This may be a little joke by the Prop Man: octagon-E 014 was the yellow-plate licence number of a police '61 Fairlane B&W in several earlier episodes.
- (3) Perry's white 1962 Lincoln Continental Convertible top up, Yellow-Plate License No XCF 012.
- (4) Carl Griffin wobbles back to the Belter place in his white 1958 Thunderbird Convertible, top down, Black-Plate Lic No CBS 769. The TBird has one flat tire and is missing the Front-Left bumper guard. It's followed by one of the police B&Ws.
Background Cars. In the opening location-setter in front of the gambling joint, the light-colored car nearest the camera is a 1963 Mercury Meteor; there also seems to be a white 1961-63 Lincoln Continental Convertible (top down) at centre-screen but the other seven(?) cars are too indistinct to identify. Parked near Car(1) as Eva & Burke flee the casino in the opening sequence are:
- (a) a two-toned 1957 Ford Fairlane 500, Black-Plate Lic No HDS 774.
- (b) a dark-color 1963 Chevrolet Impala Sport Sedan, Black-Plate Lic No JPX 368.
- (c) a medium-color 1960 Cadillac (Series 62?), only front-end seen as they pull out.
On the exit road where the police car blocks Eva (opposite F.R. Robinson's mailbox) is parked:
- (d) a light-color 1960 Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe, probably with '63 black-plate.
In a location-setting shot at 11:28:
- (e) a 1956 Plymouth Plaza 4-Door Sedan, Yellow Cab Co Taxi No 309 is stationed outside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd). The camera for this shot was across the street, a few steps from here, just about where this is now.
At 11:42 Paul tells Perry that the "dame" (Eva) was driving a car "ten miles long" when she was tailed from Perry's office. Car(1) is 221.7" long (18' 5.7"). One of the longest cars Eva could have had at that time would be a 1960 Cadillac Series 75 at 244.8" (well over 20 feet long). A 1960 Cadillac Series 62 (el cheapo model) is 225". The first Electra 225 (1959) was 225.4" overall length, hence its name. The longest Electra 225 was the 1960 at 225.9". Buick LeSabres, Invictas & "plain" Electras were about 6 to 8 inches shorter than the same year's Electra 225. The longest regular production car ever was the 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 at 252.2" (21'). Added by Gary Woloski, 9/19/13.
Goof: Compare Harrison Burke's exit from the ladies' room window, shown at 1:26, with the photo shown at 4:50. Harrison must have climbed out of the window twice, once for the TV camera and once for the still shot. While I'm at it, the lighting in the casino room was definitely not "very dark" as Eva Belter claimed. And what right would Lt. Anderson have to tell Perry Mason to leave the house of his client? -Submitted by 10yearoldfan, 30 November 2013.
+Andy is certainly feeling his oats in this episode: he summarily dismisses Perry from the Belter house, dispite the fact that the house belongs to Perry's client with whom Perry is consulting; and at about 45 minutes in, police Lt. Anderson barges into Perry's private office unannounced, AND while Perry is in an attorney-client conference. jfh 09Mar2017.
Goof: During the emotional scene where Eva is in Perry's office immediately preceding Andy's intrusive arrival, Eva's wearing a pinky ring on her right hand --- it appears to be one of those metallic mesh rings that looks like a tiny belt (I had one of them); when Andy bursts in seconds later, just before Eva slaps Perry, she is no longer wearing the ring. jfh 01Jan2020
Richard Webb:, the actor who played the part of murder victim George C. Belter, starred as Captain Midnight on the CBS television show from 1954 to 1956. SIDE NOTE: One of his assistants was a scientist named Aristotle "Tut" Jones played by Olan Soule who appeared in several episodes of Perry Mason, usually as a court clerk. Submitted by H. Mason 2/4/15
No Court: This was the fourth episode in the series with no scenes in a courtroom. Submitted by H. Mason 2/4/15
This is the first of five PM director credits for Harmon Jones who, like RB, was born in Canada...MikeM. 12/1/2016
According to Wikipedia, Patricia Barry passed away in Los Angeles on 11 October 2016 at the age of 93...MikeM. 12/1/2016
This is the only PM appearance for Cathie Merchant, who made four appearances on "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour"...MikeM. 3/9/2017
The picture page for the cast of this episode contains two different pictures of the same actress, Cathie Merchant, which is odd, since she only portrayed one character in one episode in the entire series - "Esther Linten". Submitted by Carl S. - 03/27/18
Worst...client...ever!!!!! :) and 'Perry darling':
That was an astonishingly gullible police officer that Eva Belter convinced to move his squad car and allow her to leave the night club. Wouldn't it have been his duty to check on the condition of the man in the car covered with the raincoat? - Submitted by 10yearoldfan, 30 November 2013.
+IMHO the officer did not know there was anyone hiding under the raincoat; the story was that the husband was home waiting for the doctor, she was on her way to the pharmacy. jfh 01Dec2016.
+ Eva is my wife's most hated client because of the nauseatingly sick term she uses in this episode "Perry darling". My wife tells me every time she uses that term she just wants to punch that woman or something. (kind of like something Della wants to do to her based on her facial expressions when Eva is talking to Perry in the office) ;-) Submitted by HamBurger 8/9/2014
+ TCOT Nauseating Nymph I agree with your wife, HamBurger. "Per-wee, dar-wing, I'm so irwesistible...not!" Patricia Barry is my least favorite vixen on PM. Not attractive, not seductive, and a terrible actress. She does, at least, echo how unappealing the character is in the novel. No matter how many times ESG says how sexy she is, all that comes across is that she's creepy. She's no better at flirting on the page than on the screen. So...well done, Ms. Barry? Thank goodness, this is the last of her three PM appearances! (Luckily, the PM era was rich in gorgeous and talented actresses who wow us in other episodes!) Submitted by JazzBaby, 04/03/2019.
+ Agreed. She is very unlikable. And overacted. She would be great in a comedy. But here she's just annoying. —yelocab 14MAY19
+ It's good to see others commenting on this Nauseating Nymph. This may be one time when it would have been good to see Perry lose a case and send that wench to jail ;-) Submitted by HamBurger, Jul. 21, 2019
+ The only redeeming moments of this episode are watching Della's caustic glares and eye rolls during Eva's antics in Perry's office. (Or perhaps Barbara Hale is cleverly expressing her displeasure over the lousy script and Patricia Barry's hammy acting?) Either theory works for me. Third_Generation_Fan, 1/14/2021.
Telephone 1: How did Eve get Perry Mason's home number? Submitted by H. Mason 2/4/15
+Easy: she looked it up in the phone book! (Remember how Della could't find Eva's number (under whatever fake name she was using) at the beginning: "She wasn't in the phone book"). These were the days when everyone was in the phone book, unless you paid to have an 'unlisted' number. Or she called the operator. —yelocab 14MAY19
Yet another appearance by that elaborate staircase set.
+Also, I have noticed the bookcase with the circular carvings at the top (In Belter's home office) in the past few episodes I have seen. —yelocab 14MAY19
Under California law, I don't believe it is possible to completely disinherit a spouse, although if anyone deserves disinheriting, it is Eve.
With that mustache, Harry Jackson looks like Paul Whiteman DODay 12/05/17
At nearly 45 minutes in, I believe this is about the latest we have an arrest. DOD 01/14/21
Telephone 2: When Perry got the phone number at the switchboard was he listening to the dial? He didn't seem to be looking at the operator make the call. Submitted by H. Mason 2/4/15
+ For #1: I don't know either, but I can imagine that Eva was able to con it out of the Drake Agency's switchboard operator. For #2: See for example the 2011 Paramount DVD at about 14:44. Perry clearly sees the rotary dial as the operator dials the number. He writes down the number. lowercase masonite, 3/3/16.
OUCH!: Perry gets slapped good in his office. Sorry Perry, but it does look funny when you watch it all in slow motion (over and over)! ;-> Submitted by mesave31, 04/05/15.
+ Far more painful than that slap, in my opinion, is Patricia Barry's unbearably--unforgivably!--terrible acting in that scene! By the time she collapses on the floor, I am longing for Burr and Lau to kick her for shaming their profession! Submitted by JazzBaby, 04/03/2019.
Attorney With An Axe: This story is unusual, in that Perry has his own personal motives in settling the hash of the publisher of SPICY BITS. His anger is barely concealed when recounting the suicide of his friend. I would not want to be in his way, guilty or not. Do we know what ever happens to SPICY BITS? JohnK, 13 January 2018
+ At the end of the episode Perry says something to the effect of "Spicy Bits has published it's last...and I'm going to help bury it." (He then tells a smirking Della that yes, he'll be staying on as Eva's attorney.) Perhaps it was cut from the version you saw ... or maybe your real question is can Eva really be trusted to give up a lucrative title just because that's the right thing to do?? What...you don't trust her ?? Replied by Notcom, 042619.
Once again, nothing seems to done about battered women in this series. Eva shows Mr. Mason a bruise in order to persuade him to help her, but what he should have done is call the police re assault. The fact that Eva turns out to be very dissembling and manipulative, even poisonous, as Della describes her later, doesn’t change what a person should do when he sees evidence of assault and battery, no matter if the victim is related to the assailant. In fact, if Perry had done so, he wouldn’t have found himself in the predicament he was mired in. And anyway, it turns out that her “poison” came out of desperation and fear, and the ever-gallant Perry shows keen understanding of this ultimately. Submitted by g, 1/31/2011.
+ If the victim willingly returns to the abuser, not much can be done by the authorities or by observers. jfh 01Dec2016
+ Well, times and thinking were different back then. She returned to her husband, and she was a grown, strong woman capable of going to the police herself. And, although that's terrible, a bruise on her upper back might have not seemed as serious as a black eye or something else. Up until the 1990s, for example, in some states, a husband couldn't be prosecuted for raping his own wife. —yelocab 14MAY19
+ I love how Della's glare shoots daggers through Eva. It's a good thing Della didn't see what Eva did to Perry at the end; she might have been facing a murder charge herself! Submitted by DellaFan, 11/15/2013.
+ Yes, and Della should have called the police when Eva slapped Perry. Nothing seems to be done about battered attorneys in this series! Submitted by francis, 6/9/12.
This is one of my episodes. Patricia Barry plays the role well and some actors would overacted it to the point of being ridiculous. She always plays the femme fatale roles well. I alo thought the foot play in the car while leaving the casino where she teases Burke with her toes and he snaps at them was interesting for TV during this time. Submitted by Perry Baby 6/12/16.
+ But my favorite hardboiled female in the series is the actress who played "Mauvis Meade" in TCOT Mythical Monkeys. Submitted by Carl S. 03/27/18